Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Google Olympics

Here's some food for thought ... the number of times that a country is mentioned online is indicative of A: How interested the rest of the world is in the country; and B: How vocal the country's citizens are in representing themselves.

Surely this is a measure of a country's 'culture' as well? As humans we measure ourselves by how much we're spoken about, and people who're more well-known are by default more popular or influential. That's pretty much the philosophy behind Google's page rankings, and people's Klout score.

So then, the obvious question: where does Romania sit in The Google Olympics? To compile these results, all I did was google the country's name in English, and I captured the total number of hits Google returned. Some of the results are expected, but some others are surprising. After the jump, there's a conclusion which ties this all together.
  1. China - 3,510,000,000 results
  2. "United States" - 3,260,000,000 results
  3. France - 3,150,000,000 results
  4. Canada - 2,900,000,000 results
  5. India - 2,660,000,000 results
  6. Japan - 2,340,000,000 results
  7. Australia - 2,310,000,000 results
  8. Germany - 1,760,000,000 results
  9. "United Kingdom" - 1,540,000,000 results
  10. Italy - 1,520,000,000 results
  11. Spain - 1,290,000,000 results
  12. Brazil - 1,190,000,000 results
  13. Israel - 935,000,000 results
  14. "New Zealand" - 877,000,000 results
  15. "South Africa" - 834,000,000 results
  16. Romania - 679,000,000 results
  17. Egypt - 673,000,000 results
  18. Iraq - 522,000,000 results
  19. Quebec - 409,000,000 results
  20. Mongolia - 276,000,000 results
Extra, extra, read all about it: China out-googles the United States! Maybe not surprising given its population. But how do you explain Australia's ranking? Australia has a population of 23 million, and yet it is mentioned online 2,3 billion times - almost as much as India, which has a population of 1,2 billion. Why has Australia captured the global imagination to such an extent? Kangaroos?

How about Israel? With a population of only 8 million, Israel returns almost as many hits as Brazil - a country with 197 million citizens! The driver must be religion and conflict with Palestine.

Aah Romania, 679 million hits. Not too bad actually, if you consider that it's only five times fewer than China. My guess is that the relative newness of the Internet allows for these sorts of discrepancies, which will even out over time as countries' populations come fully online and start talking about themselves.

The thought I want to leave with you, however, is this: as we move deeper into the information age, how many times a country is mentioned on Google is going to come to reflect exactly how much of an impact it makes on the global consciousness. Those ramifications affect every aspect of life: from tourists to business people to emigration.

In the global village, a country looking to raise its image needs to focus beyond a Ministry of Tourism website with beautiful pictures, towards the number and quality of conversations taking place online about the country and initiated by the country's citizens.

That's where the magic happens: it's where Romanians speaking back to the world get to say, "Look guys, we appreciate the Dracula connections, but there's a whole country here that isn't represented by your preconceptions. Here's who we are, what we think, what we can offer you and what we expect from you."

That, dear reader, is nation-building for the 21st Century. It must also scare the pants off the tourism boards, when they realise that it's completely out of their control. If they're smart, however, their limited tourism budgets will be spent on raising the optimism of their own country's inhabitants, and those new ambassadors will go online and start millions of conversations far more efficiently than the most expensive advertising campaign ever could.

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